People sometimes confuse patents with copyrights or trademarks, saying, for example, that George Lucas has a patent on the name Star Wars. Patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are all legal means of protecting intellectual property—a term referring to the intangible creations of the human mind in which the law recognizes some form of ownership. However, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are each governed by a unique body of rules and requirements, and, in spite of some overlap, they are generally designed to protect different sorts of intellectual creations. Therefore, a good starting point for explaining what a patent is may be to emphasize what it is not.
Copyrights protect “works of authorship,” which is broadly defined by statute to include writings in the conventional sense and, among other things, dramatic works, musical compositions, choreography, paintings, sculptures, photographs, motion pictures, audio recordings, and architecture. To some degree, any work of authorship has an aspect of creative expression. Copyright protects this expression, not the underlying ideas. Although idea and expression are not always easy to sort out, one could, for example, borrow the information published in this book without violating